Roller Coasters of Brownie-Baking
Nearly every summer, I participate in a week-long chamber music workshop. It’s fantastic, and the week of hard work is topped off by a sort of showcase concert. Besides the joy of working with wonderful musicians, my favorite part is the reception that follows the concert, which is held potluck-style. I signed up to bring dessert. But after only just finishing off the last batch of Chan’s Chunky Chocolate Chip Chews this afternoon, I wasn’t quite ready to make another five dozen cookies. So I decided to shift it up a bit. As I browsed the internet for appealing, yet easy, amateur-approachable recipes, I discovered the most incredible website: Joy of Baking. Two hours later, after reading through every single delicious-looking, drool-production-inducing recipe, I decided on Stephanie Jaworski’s Turtle Brownies. It came as a surprise to me that I would choose brownies over the webpages and webpages of fruit tarts, shortcake, and madeleines–I have never been much of a brownie person. It’s not that I dislike chocolate. I love it, actually. It’s just that brownies are so… brownie-like. But these turtle brownies, with their basic brownie bottom, topped with a layer of caramel and walnuts, and finished off with an elegant lattice of chocolate ganache, were just too simultaneously handsome and beautiful to resist.
I started off by toasting the pecans in the oven. They came out beautifully and tasted absolutely wonderful. But my success that had come so early in the game did not last long. As I mixed the brownie batter, all the ingredients amalgamating together into a brown liquid of incredible chocolaty goodness, I whipped out my HUGE cookie sheet and prepped it for the brownies. To me, the cookie sheet looked like it was just about 9″ x 13″. And with the brownie batter all smoothed out on my trusty baking pan, everything looked as though it was going fabulously well.
With the oven heated to 350 F, I was all set and ready to turn my delicious-looking batter into delicious brownies! So I put my oven mitt on, slipped my baking pan into the oven, and set the timer for 20 minutes. But when my timer went off, what I found awaiting in the oven was not a wonderful tray of brownies, but rather, this:
I couldn’t quite understand how my beautiful brownie batter had morphed into some sort of chocolate-ified lava mound, or topographical landscape, or model mountain range. It was horrid. I racked my brains for a possible error that would have caused my brownies to be come an awful sloping chocolate disaster, but everything seemed to match up with the recipe! It was not until my dad asked me how big the pan was supposed to be that I realized my mistake: I had “estimated” my cookie pan to be 9″ x 13″ when it was actually 13″ x 18″! So much for being a math major. As for the unevenness of the brownies, that was completely unavoidable. It turns out that our oven racks aren’t parallel to the ground.
In the end, I managed to salvage a couple dozen brownies from the baking disaster, and then I arranged them nicely on a plate to make up for their lack of width. I didn’t finish them off with a layer of caramel and toasted pecans, topped with a lattice of chocolate ganache, but nevertheless, I brought them to the concert reception, and by the end of the night, they were nearly all gone. My sextet’s second violist (who happens to be the second best teen chef in Arizona) gave my brownies her approval, and a couple other friends of mine deemed them to be quite delicious. Maybe they were just being nice. But I’ll never know. After all, I don’t like brownies much. All I know, is that my brownies had taken a roller coaster ride: from beautiful batter, to god-awful baking madness, to a tray of yummy-looking brownies.
It was almost like music to my eyes.